and Connecting to My Queerness
by Delia Curtis
It’s mid-March and I am sitting snuggled in my bed, under layers of blankets, my phone in tow, sending literal paragraphs to a girl I had matched with on Bumble a couple weeks prior. I was awaiting a snow storm and my phone became my refuge. We discussed everything under the sun, from growing up in heteronormative societies, our guilty pleasure lesbian movies and the songs that made us weep to our family backgrounds and relationships and our biggest gay crushes. Obviously, Alex and Piper, Emily and Naomi, and a few other iconic pairs were mentioned in our conversation, but what really struck me was the music we shared: the queer anthems that we claimed as our own. Back and forth we sent Spotify links to the likes of Lykke Li and Christine and the Queens. She informed me of an artist that she thought was going to make it BIG. And damn was she right. King Princess was her name and her songs have stuck with me like glue well after our conversations tapered off and we drifted apart. Though I never got to meet this woman in person, her essence has lasted through the effect of King Princess’ songs.
King Princess has quickly become one of my favorite artists, representing and embodying much of what queer youth culture has become—restless and ready for revolution. Born Mikaela Straus, King Princess, a genderqueer gay musician, uses a stage name for her iconic sound and music brand. At just 19 years old, she’s shaking up the music industry and making space for queers of all age groups. Her EP, Make My Bed includes five songs that pay homage to the LGBTQ+ community members that have paved the way for young queers to be out, loud, and proud.
Most, if not all her all her songs center around queer love and affection, having to hide it, or being openly out. Her most well-known song “1950,” references the Lavender Scare. Beginning in the year 1950, the United States government began a mass firing of its homosexual members in a wave similar to the Red Scare and anti-communism movements of the era. Homosexual people were thought to be a security risk and therefore fired. While this era is a horrific consequence of homophobia, the 50s are glamorized as a period of old-timey, authentic love, an era of sweet diner dates: milkshakes and jukebox included. A stark juxtaposition and duality emerge.
King Princess croons in “1950,” “I hate it when dudes try to chase me/ But I love it when you try to save me/ ‘Cause I’m just a lady/ I love it when we play 1950/ It’s so cold that your stare’s ‘bout to kill me/ I’m surprised when you kiss me/” The lyrics point to particular moments in queer relationships that center around the doubt and surprise that seem to trickle into many romantic and sexual moments between queer partners. It zooms in on the difficulties queer couples faced during the 1950s and how coded and disguised their love had to be, emphasis on the cold stares. “So tell me why my gods look like you/ And tell me why its wrong” King Princess alludes to the absurdity of thinking that queer love could ever be wrong while also implying that it couldn’t be wrong to love the things that you look up to and admire, in her case: women. Later in the chorus, King Princess sings “I will keep on waiting for your love/,” emphasizing that queer relationships often have to be put on pause because of circumstance, but that she’s willing to wait to pursue it despite societal conditions. “So bold, make them know that you’re with me/ Stone cold, will you miss me?” draws attention to queer love as an inherent protest, that just by existing as a queer person in a queer relationship, you are challenging societal norms and conventions, a ‘bold’ move in her eyes. This ‘stone cold’ face, perhaps a poker face makes her wonder if she’ll miss her while they’re apart, unable to tell, highlighting how confusing queer relationships can be because of the constraints placed upon queers by society.
As someone who had only been out as a lesbian for about a year and a half when having the conversation with the girl from Bumble, I was still somewhat uncomfortable expressing my sexuality, my affection for women being something that I desperately wanted to own up to. While King Princess does illicit mixed reactions from the queer community, she became a source of solace for me. When I would listen to her music, I felt free and I felt like myself. For a while, when I would hear the first spurt of lyrics to a King Princess song, my thoughts would immediately drift to the girl from Bumble, but sooner or later, I started to think about myself and how her lyrics were for me, for any queer that felt isolated by heteronormativity or wished to be able to lead a life free from discrimination or persecution.
Flash forward to August. I stand in the middle of the audience at The Sinclair in Cambridge. A silver-letter garland on the stage spells out K-I-N-G-P-R-I-N-C-E-S-S. The crowd is full of people young and old, men with other men, women with other women, queer couples, gay couples, lesbian couples, all swaying to King Princess’ deeper, raspy intonation. It’s a breath of fresh air. I feel like I can move and exist as I am. People are conversing and socializing, making new friends. This is the moment I was craving, to feel like myself in a public space. Come January, I will be at the Royale, a bigger crowd this time, listening to King Princess belt out the lyrics to her newest single “Pussy Is God” and revealing her new innovations to her inclusive audience. Without the girl from Bumble and her suggestion, I might still be searching for a queer icon to call my own.